Divorce Rate In American Families

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Divorce Rate in American Families

Divorce Rate in American Families


Two of the strongest and most widely held beliefs about contemporary family life are that marriage should be a lifelong commitment and that parental divorce has serious negative effects on children. Because of the conviction with which these values are held, many people are alarmed by the high divorce rate in the United States and in many other industrialized nations. Across industrialized nations, the divorce rate is by far the highest in the United States, where about half of all first marriages formed in the 1990s will end in divorce, and more than one million children experience parental divorce each year. While the divorce rate in the United States is 4.33 per 1,000 population, the comparable rates in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, and Italy are 2.91, 2.42, 2.41, 2.14, 2.01, 1.65, and .47, respectively (Norton and Paul, 2003). Although marital dissolution is an important social issue in many countries, research on its effects on children has largely been conducted in the United States.


Factual knowledge of the American marriage and divorce situation was first investigated by Norton and Paul (2003), a pioneer demographer who served as a statistician for the U.S. War Department, an academic scholar and university administrator, and a statistical adviser to nations (Norton and Paul, 2003). Norton and Paul (2003) mention during the late 1880s, Willcox's interest in the divorce question led him to prepare a dissertation on the legal philosophy of this topic. But when he traveled to Berlin, Germany, to study empirical methods, Willcox was so taken by what he learned that he soon applied these new techniques to the U.S. marriage and divorce census data and later to other issues that emerged in this enlightened era and environment. Special topical areas that Willcox helped to develop include demography studies relating to birth, death, migration, and population composition, as well as the methodological problems affecting the gathering and analyses of census and vital statistics data. The following offers a brief discussion of this important foundation (Norton and Paul, 2003).

The persistency of the myth surrounding the U.S. divorce problem may be attributed in part to the large number of marriages and divorces recorded annually. Thus, it is important to understand the method used for determining the divorce rate, which is equal to the number of divorces occurring in a population during a specific year divided by the number of marriages, number of married males, or number of married females in the population. Thus, the crude divorce rate formula is where D is the number of divorces occurring in one year, P is the population at risk to divorce, and K is a constant, 1,000. This resultant ratio when multiplied by 1,000 provides a crude rate because, as Saunders (1988:41) notes, the entire population of marriages of all ages is represented in the denominator and the number of divorces of all ages is included in the ...
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